Dia de los Muertos ofrenda in honor of my brothers
John (1/10/1950-10/23/2014) and Brian (4/12/1953-4/11/2014.)
I started this ofrenda, or alter, a few weeks ago as a way to think about my brother, Brian. My other brother, John, passed away while I was working on it. I can’t believe they are gone. Who am I going to call when we need advice about house repairs?
I imagine that Dia de los Muertos and the ofrendas that are built for them mean many things to many people. I was even warned that it might be dangerous. But you know, I believe that most of the time we get out of this world what we put into it. There was no fear or darkness in the making of this ofrenda. Just memories and love. Otherwise, would the dancing skeleton girls be so happy to attend?
Edit: I’ve been lighting this every day. It sits on a table in front of a white wall. When the furnace comes on, the shadows of the wings look like they are fluttering!
I don’t know what I believe about an afterlife. I know what I would like. I would like us all to be able to meet each other’s best selves. I imagine my dad would be in his twenties, newly in love with my mom, boxing with the Golden Gloves, fit and strong and learning about different kinds of people, about to have his first son.
I was surprised not to find calaveras, or sugar skulls, in the markets in the Antelope Valley. I could have driven down to L.A., but I decided to make my own of clay. The proper skull in the background is from our latest trip to Oaxaca.
Almonds, brandy, and little silver coins. The peace signs are not traditional, but they are my wish for my brothers, who really did put up with a lot of pain in the last years of their lives.
The little scrolls are poems. John loved The Cremation of Sam McGee and did a worthy recitation when called upon. Brian’s daughter, Sarah, wrote the other poem since his death, and offered it to me for the altar. The text is below.
In Memory of My Father
by Sarah Weigold
Loosen the laces
widen the shoe’s hole
hold the heel in place
and aim the sole
Tighten the laces
check on the toes,
Ask if he is comfortable
and make the bows
Reach for the cane
provide a helping hand,
hold steady in place
and help him stand.
Get out of his way
clear the clutter from the hall,
open all the doors,
and make sure he doesn’t fall.
Walk with him to the car
open the passenger door wide,
hand him his seat buckle,
and then get in the other side.
With the tying of the shoes,
the adventures would begin,
I miss the morning routine,
and wish I could do it all again.